Annual Meeting Held in Tokyo

A summary of LFNKR activities during fiscal 2015 (Sept. 1, 2015 to Aug. 31, 2016) and the plans for the next fiscal year were outlined at the annual meeting. 

For the past year the defection of high-level North Korean refugees, theoretically those who would be supporters of the North Korean regime, has markedly increased, showing signs of a possible crack in the current regime’s power structure.

Despite the ever-tighter security at the borders, we expect the escape of people from North Korea to continue, since there has been no sign of improvement in the human rights situation.

In July of this year, LFNKR received a rescue request from North Korean refugees and carried out the rescue operation, our first in three years, successfully helping a total of 5 refugees to safety.

The mission of LFNKR will never end as long as escapees from North Korea continue asking for help.  At this year’s annual meeting, it was agreed that LFNKR should establish a system that will enable a rescue team to immediately mobilize a rescue operation within 72 hours of receiving a help request from a North Korean refugee.

LFNKR, since its founding as a human rights and humanitarian NGO, has rescued more than 200 North Korean refugees.  These people have chosen South Korea, Japan, Australia, USA, and Britain as safe destinations to start their new lives.  One of our rescue group members was arrested and held in China, followed by deportation, and has since been placed on a “wanted list” by the North Korean authorities.

Another of our members was actually imprisoned in China for 8 months.  LFNKR has received public recognition for our activities, including the high-risk rescue operations. For example, the Tokyo Bar Association awarded its Human Rights Award to our organization. In addition the U.S. Department of State granted us its Freedom Defender Award.

LFNKR was formed in 1998, nearly twenty years ago, and our board of directors are beginning to see a need for younger faces who will step forward and take over some of the activities. There is also a need to gradually downsize the scale of our activities. The current office space is already being reduced by half. Also, as part of the ongoing move to reduce expenses, LFNKR will be issuing its printed newsletter just four times a year. To offset this change, we have decided to step up our use of Internet media, including the Huffington Post.

To date, the LFNKR education sponsorship program has provided a total of 80 foster children with the minimum level of education (usually until age 15). Several of these children, after reaching this age, have received opportunities for higher education. We wish especially to thank the foster parents who believed in these students and their hunger to learn more.  With changes in government policies the number of North Korean orphans has decreased. This means that there is no longer as urgent a need for the rescue of orphans.  As a result, our organization has reached an agreement with one of LFNKR’s supporting partners to take over the program.  Currently, only 10 children born between North Korean women and Chinese men – the so-called “second generation of North Korean refugees” – are in the program.

LFNKR will continue providing advice and assistance to the former North Korean defectors who have settled in Japan.  In this fiscal year, LFNKR established the “Sayaka Scholarship” to help former North Korean defectors who are motivated to acquire specialized skills here in Japan.  This scholarship was named after the North Korean woman who settled in Tokyo, worked exceptionally hard to master the language, and then to become a certified nurse.  A group of Japanese were so impressed and inspired by her achievements that they have offered to donate scholarship money for others like Sayaka.

LFNKR will continue to engage in joint efforts with international groups to address the North Korean human rights issue.  During the past year, as a member of the ICNK (International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea), LFNKR continued to jointly work with the related international groups and held advisory meetings with representatives of the UN Commission on Human Rights.  LFNKR also participated in meetings with Japanese government officials, encouraging them to vote for the Resolution on Human Rights Infringement in North Korea at the UN assembly.

Another marked achievement of LFNKR in fiscal 2015 is the publication of the Japanese version of the book National Strategies and Power Elites in North Korea, which contains essential information for a basic understanding of the North Korean regime and related human rights issues.  This 430-page book took almost 2 years to translate.